Almost Human is a new drama from Fringe showrunner J.H. Wyman (with J.J. Abrams producing), set 35 years in the future, when police officers are partnered with highly evolved human-like androids.
An unlikely partnership is forged when a part-machine cop (Karl Urban – Star Trek, Judge Dredd) is forced to pair with a part-human robot (Michael Ealy - Sleeper Cell, Common Law) as they fight crime and investigate a deeper cover-up in a futuristic new world.
In 1965, British children had a new obsession: Daleks! Having first appeared in 1964 as part of the BBC’s new Saturday drama series, ‘Dr. Who’, the ‘pepper pots’ had proved an instant hit.
Unsurprisingly, ‘Dalek mania’ was deemed ripe for commercial exploitation and the 1960s would see two feature films, countless toys, books, comics, and numerous appearances on television all featuring Terry Nation’s most famous creation.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Dr. Who and the Daleks’ and ‘Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.’ marks the films’ debut HD transfer, and both pictures have never looked so good! The films have, however, been released many times in the past, including a prior DVD release, a variety of VHS compilations and have been available for the domestic home market since as far back as 1977 when they were released on Super 8mm.
Before we talk about the release itself, it’s important to look back at the origins of these films and to understand how they fit into the Dr. Who ‘franchise’. Since 1963, 11 actors have occupied the role of ‘The Doctor’ in the BBC show, however Peter Cushing’s fine performance is not considered ‘canon’, nor are the films accepted by Dr. Who fans as being compatible with the television series of the same name – despite Cushing appearing for double the screen time of the series’ eighth incumbent Paul McGann. However, much like the strange relative that all families refuse to fully acknowledge, but reluctantly accept as part of their own, most Dr. Who fans have a grudging respect for the films, and almost all will already own a copy.
With BBC regular William Hartnell committed to making the television series, the use of Peter Cushing, a stalwart of British Cinema (with white hair and being of a similar age to Hartnell) is understandable. What’s altogether more questionable was the decision to re-invent the series’ back story and replace the concept of an alien traveller with that of a domestic ‘mad professor’ who has seemingly stumbled upon the key to time travel from the comfort of his back garden. The eponymous character’s personality and temperament is also markedly different between Hartnell and Cushing’s portrayal and the broody, melancholic Doctor is portrayed here as a carefree spirit with an almost childlike thirst for adventure. In the years before viewers had come to witness the Doctor ‘regenerate’ from actor to actor, reconciling this figure with their favourite television hero must have been a tall task indeed.
Beyond these differences, the plots to both films produced by Amicus Productions, and directed by Gordon Flemyng, follow their television counterparts reasonably faithfully and the slight reduction in screen time on film helps move the story along. The huge budget difference between television and film is also self evident as the Doctor’s adventures, and indeed his fearful foes, are presented on a scale never seen on the BBC.
If you already own the films on DVD, and don’t have a high-definition setup, it’s arguable as to whether it’s worth ‘upgrading’ to this package. However, if you’re a lover of Blu-ray and all things HD, the films are a worthy addition to any self-respecting Dr. Who fan’s collection. Despite 2013 marking the series’ 50th anniversary, precious little footage from the original series exists in a high-definition format with the programme originally recorded on 405 line, two inch quad studio videotape, and ending on 625 line, one inch quad videotape by the end of the classic series run in 1989. Indeed, it took until the David Tennant ‘specials’ in 2009 for the series to permanently adopt HD as its format of choice. So, with only one serial from the first 46 years of the show prime for Blu-ray (Jon Pertwee’s debut adventure ‘Spearhead from Space’ – recorded on location on 16mm due to a studio strike), Dr. Who fans really can’t be fussy when it comes to HD content!
In reviewing this latest release it’s clear from the off that both films look luxurious in their original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and prove that, in the 1960s, British cinema could hold its own on the world stage. The HD transfer is an incredibly sympathetic one and the balance between film grain and over-the-top noise reduction is achieved almost to perfection. The grading is brilliant and allows both films (which are incredibly colourful and vibrant in of themselves) to have impact, without becoming over saturated. There’s the odd scratch and dirt visible from time to time, but it’s not enough to distract and serves to add some patina to the transfers. The sound to both films has also enjoyed a high level of restoration, and listening to some old clips online from prior transfers highlights the immediate difference. Both films are presented as LPCM 2.0 tracks and the distinctive and effective music scores that underpin the films have never sounded so good.
The extras package available for both films is strong, though the jewel in the crown – the brilliant DalekMania documentary has been around for nearly twenty years. A nice commentary by Roberta Tovey and Jennie Linden is welcome though and there’s a nice little restoration feature, which is always good to see when a film has been lovingly restored. Film trailers and galleries have also been included along with a couple of other interesting novelties to bring added value. The films are presented with pleasing cover artwork, and are available individually or together as part of a package.
Watching both films, it’s a shame that the planned, but ultimately abandoned, third movie – an adaptation of the television serial ‘The Chase’ – was never made. Ultimately, although ‘Dr. Who and the Daleks’ and ‘Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.’ will never be ‘our’ Dr. Who, they are a great oddity which allows us to see the Daleks, at the height of their power and popularity, given their rightful ‘big budget’ outing on the big screen and I’m sure many future fans may have come to the series through seeing these films. As long as the television series remains, these films will continue popping up every few years for new generations to enjoy, but this HD restoration probably marks the pinnacle of their presentation…well, at least until 4k becomes the norm!
9/10 - If you love Dr.Who and can accept this re-imagining, you’ll be rewarded with colourful Daleks galore on a truly epic scale!
Release Date: In cinemas May 9 2013
Cert: 12A TBC
To celebrate the release of Star Trek Into Darkness, in cinemas May 9th (cert 12A TBC), we have teamed up with Paramount Pictures UK to offer you the chance to win 1 of 5 sets of awesome Star Trek Into Darkness goodies! Each set includes…
- 1 x Star Trek Into Darkness Bluetooth Speaker
- 1 x Star Trek Into Darkness Bluetooth Keyboard
- 1 x Star Trek… Ice cube tray!
And, as i mentioned earlier, we have 5 SETS to give away!
In Summer 2013, pioneering director J.J. Abrams will deliver an explosive action thriller “Star Trek Into Darkness” following on from the international box office success of Star Trek in 2009. Featuring a stellar cast including Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, Alice Eve, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Bruce Greenwood, Noel Clarke and Peter Weller.
When the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving our world in a state of crisis. With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction. As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.
Book your tickets to see Star Trek Into Darkness here: http://bit.ly/TrekTickets
How to win 1 of 5 sets of Awesome Star Trek Into Darkness Goodies!
Competition is now closed, and the winners have been contacted! Thank you all for entering. You can still enter our Competition to win a set of 4 Jonathan Tropper novels here!
1. Retweet the following:
Retweet to win awesome Star Trek Into Darkness goodies! (in Cinemas 9th May 2013) @GeekTown http://wp.me/p10pHL-2Vy
2. Leave a comment on this post saying why you should win this great Trekkie prize!
You can do both, and double your chances!
The competition closes on 9th May 2013 and is open to UK residents aged 18 or over. There will be 5 winners picked from entries on geektown.co.uk and Twitter. By entering you are agreeing to the rules of this competition. Full rules can be read here.
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Science Fiction has traditionally done a pretty good job of making us feel sad about not living in the future. We get a taste of some of the wondrous technology that might be available to our distant descendants, and then almost immediately are hurled back into our normal boring lives, which are full of toil, inconvenient menial tasks, and wasps. So much for progress.
But what we often fail to realise is that many modern technologies have actually gone far beyond anything Science Fiction was able to conjure up until comparatively recently. This often leads to the well-documented phenomenon of zeerust, in which the “futuristic” devices of SF past become so hopelessly dated that they appear amusingly quaint in hindsight. A particularly good example of this comes in the form of older depictions of “supercomputers” using tape reels and vacuum tubes. However, what may surprise you, gentle reader, is that some anachronisms that are still reasonably common in Science Fiction have escaped scrutiny almost entirely in the popular consciousness. Here are a few of our favourites.
1. Guns which fire bullets are the norm because they’re much more efficient than anything else
Almost every space-borne sci-fi show has some kind of energy-based weapon as the standard mechanism of combat between hostiles. In fact, lasers, phasers, and plasma guns are such an ingrained aspect of the genre in the eyes of some that it becomes slightly odd when they’re omitted (as in the remake of Battlestar Galactica). Some people remain disappointed that we haven’t abandoned traditional guns in favour of the more psychedelic option, but there’s a very good reason we haven’t.
First of all, the technology to create weapons-grade lasers has existed for some time, but it is ludicrously inefficient and has a bad habit of setting the air around the weapon’s firing line on fire. Likewise, “plasma” has the disadvantage of being essentially very hot gas, and being about as aimable and shootable as steam. Meanwhile, projectile-based guns are easy and cheap to make, and extremely good at killing things. As more knowledge of how next-gen weapons work trickles down, this facet of the sci-fi trope library is beginning to see less and less of the light of day, with railguns, coil guns, and other mass-accelerator type devices taking their place.
2. While our spacecraft may look worse, they are a lot better at actually being spacecraft
Discerning casual viewers of space missions will have noted that many of the things humans put into orbit or beyond are by no means easy on the eye. By comparison, many aircraft, along with the huge number of spaceships seen in TV and movie Science Fiction are sleek, smooth-edged things that are exceptionally pretty to look at. The very good reason behind this is that the sleek, smooth, aerodynamic models of fiction would be almost entirely useless outside of the atmosphere.
When you have an atmosphere around, it’s obviously to your advantage to make vehicles that are designed to move through it efficiently, hence the concept of “aerodynamic” design. However, out in space, where there is no atmosphere to steer against and nothing much at all producing friction, aerodynamics isn’t likely to get you very far. Craft like the moon lander look so ungainly and ugly precisely because they’ve been designed to be efficiently propelled by rockets, which are the only motive force currently available to us. So future spacecraft are likely to be more ‘Red Dwarf’ and less ‘Starship Enterprise’. The sole exceptions are space shuttles, which have been designed with some basic aerodynamic considerations in mind because they need to be able to fly through the atmosphere in order to land.
3. Our handheld computers are much better than most iconic fictional examples
Admittedly, this one feels like a bit of a cheat, since laptops, tablets and ultrabooks are now produced by dozens of manufacturers and a lot of these devices are a recent phenomenon. It’s difficult to blame shows like Star Trek for not anticipating them. But even our most recent science fiction forays have been prone to misrepresenting the power of handheld devices: They are either depicted as specialist equipment or bulky and inelegant. In reality, a properly configured tablet or smartphone can actually harness the same technology as their sedentary equivalents.
With a little bit of work, you can even double-head your computer setup in such a way that you can achieve the same effect seen with the handheld computer in this scene at the beginning of Avatar (ironically released within a few months of the first true tablets becoming commercially available). Our touchscreens are also sensitive and advanced enough to replicate effects seen in films like Minority Report, but we’ve done one better than the movies again in that we haven’t stapled them to a wall, so it’s actually possible to use them while sitting down, and without Tom’s ‘special gloves’.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the dreamers of Hollywood don’t influence real world design. Would we have had the ‘clam-shell’ mobile phone without the original Star Trek communicator, or the iPad without Star Trek’s PADD? Maybe… But I can’t help thinking that people that designed those products must have been influenced by the TV shows and movies they saw in their youth. You only have to look at NASA to see that it did have some effect. After all, what was the name of the first space shuttle?.. Enterprise.
Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds headline the supernatural action-adventure R.I.P.D. as two undead cops dispatched by the otherworldly Rest In Peace Department to protect our world from an increasingly destructive array of creatures who refuse to move peacefully to the other side.
R.I.P.D. is directed by Robert Schwentke (Red) and produced by Neal H. Moritz (the Fast and Furious series, I Am Legend), Michael Fottrell and Mike Richardson.
IN CINEMAS, 30 AUGUST 2013
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds
Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Produced by: Neal Mortitz, Michael Fottrell, Mike Richardson
Executive Producers: Liza Chasin, Debra Hayward, Bill Johnson
It’s (almost) always a little sad to hear that a games company has shutdown. But this is a especially sad for people like me that grew up on LucasArts games.
LucasArts were a huge part of my gaming history. From those late 80′s Amiga gaming days of Maniac Mansion and Zak McKracken, through Indiana Jones and LOOM, to 1990 uber-classic Secret of Monkey Island and it’s sequels. Then onto the PC, with Grim Fandango, and the brilliant X-Wing series.
The love of LucasArts games continued through my college years, with the degree distracting Full Throttle, Sam & Max, and Jedi Knight series. Post college, 2003 saw them collaborate with Bioware to bring the astounding Knights of the Old Republic, and of course, my first MMORPG – Star Wars Galaxies (developed with SOE).
In 2004, LucasArts underwent a restructuring, and things have been rather up and down since then, starting with interfering in Galaxies, then the fiasco with forcing Obsidian to rush KotOR II out half finished. The Battlefront series was fun, but hardly original. The Force Unleashed did sell extraordinarily well despite a critical panning, however, various attempts at expanding beyond existing (mainly Star Wars) IPs, fell flat. Even the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO couldn’t save a studio which had become rather directionless in recent years…
LucasArt’s isn’t completely dead however. Although it won’t be developing internally, will still be a licensor of the LucasArt’s IPs. Actually, if you look back at the games that i’ve mentioned so far, we may not notice all that much of a change… KotOR/TOR were developed by Bioware. X-Wing by Totally Games. Galaxies by Verant Interactive/SOE. Battlefront was developed by Pandemic. Traveller’s Tales were behind the later Monkey Island/Sam & Max games and Lego Star Wars. Raven Software developed the Jedi Knight games. You actually look at the games developed solely by LucasArt’s internally for the last 10 years, and, well… Lucidity (a 2D platformer for XBox) in 2009 and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (good but not great) in 2008, and Gladius in 2003. All other games have been produced under license by other developers.
Unfortunately, the one game casualty of the closure was the upcoming ‘Star Wars 1313′, a very interesting looking FPS, where you played a bounty hunter in Coruscant’s subterranean level 1313 underworld… There is still hope someone may pick it up and continue development under license.
As a tribute to LucasArts, Raven Software have released the source code to Jedi Knight 2 and Jedi Academy, saying ”We loved and appreciated the experience of getting to make Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy for LucasArts. As a gift to the persistently loyal fanbase for our Jedi games and in memory of LucasArts, we are releasing the source code for both games for people to enjoy and play with.” So expect to see a rush of amateur developers and modders out there go nuts with it.